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A Mambo Jambo retrospective

by December 15, 2016 General

Mambo Jambo night took place every Wednesday for 21 years at the iconic Singapore club. Zouk stopped holding it on a weekly basis in 2012. — TODAY picMambo Jambo night took place every Wednesday for 21 years at the iconic Singapore club. Zouk stopped holding it on a weekly basis in 2012. — TODAY picSINGAPORE, Dec 15 — About 10 years ago, Dave Tan was “bumped off” the dance podium at Zouk’s Mambo Jambo night. That incident struck him and has stayed with him till today.

In fact, he has laboured over the last seven years to produce Blame it on the Boogie, a documentary about what is quite possibly the longest-running party in Singapore’s nightlife history.

Forty-one year-old Tan, who is the frontman of local rock band Electrico, said that incident all those years ago sparked the idea of this project. It was sometime in the mid-2000s, Tan recalled, when “I was bumped off the podium at Zouk’s Mambo Jambo night for ‘intruding’ the dance space. Admittedly, I was rather intoxicated and probably a little all over the place.”

“However, the incident made me realise how seriously these people on the podium take their craft. I wanted to dig deeper into how a club night could create such impassioned participants who lead the club in synchrony every Wednesday without fail.”

“This led me to uncover the amazing world of Mambo Jambo in ways I never imagined. I immediately knew I needed to tell this story, and immortalise this uniquely Singaporeans phenomenon,” he added.

Mambo Jambo night took place every Wednesday for 21 years at the iconic Singapore club. Zouk stopped holding it on a weekly basis in 2012.

The weekly club event was also arguably a coming-of-age must for virgin party goers. To commemorate the end of its term at the Jiak Kim Road premises, it held its last Mambo Jambo party on Nov 30, when thousands turned up for the final Mambo Jambo night and danced — in synchronised moves — until the lights came on.

Blame it on the Boogie is Tan’s debut film, and is the first documentary ever made about this cultural phenomena that celebrates the past and present of the revelry in a hilarious, raw and insightful manner, and explores what brought together an enthusiastic crowd — week after week for two decades — moving in perfect synchrony, led by the ‘Mambo Kings’ on the podium.

The film includes archival footage, classic anthems from the playlist like Summer Rain, and interviews with people such as the founder of Zouk, Lincoln Cheng, to Mambo King Gerald Wee.

Putting together all these materials and producing the work was a challenge for the first-time filmmaker. Tan explained: “Finding archival material for Mambo Jambo was extremely difficult as its renaissance was during a time before smartphones and selfies existed, or even portable digital and video cameras! Not to mention, Zouk never allowed cameras in the club during the early days.”

For a passion project helmed by one person, the toughest challenge of making Blame it on the Boogie was “trying to craft a story from the material that I got”. “I was doing it alone, so I didn’t have someone to bounce off ideas and approaches with. It was a real challenge finding that balance between telling a story and being objective,” shared Tan.

However, the filmmaker and musician feels that his efforts have “all paid off from the amazing response I received at the private screening event”.

The private screening was held on Nov 30 at The Projector and was attended by Tan’s friends, supporters, crowdfunders and members of the media. The event also coincided with the last Mambo Jambo event at the Jiak Kim premises.

The audience loved every minute of the film, rising to their feet after the documentary was over and giving Tan a standing ovation for a full five minutes.

Tan described that moment as “overwhelming and extremely redeeming”, after what had been a long journey in making the documentary.

As a ground-up effort, Blame it on the Boogie was financed solely by crowdfunding, but the first round of fundraising last year was only sufficient to complete the film.

Tan hoped the initial screening would help create buzz, and hopes to be able to hold a public screening of his film in future.

Apart from granting the permission to feature the Mambo Jambo trademark, Zouk is not involved in this project, nor did it contribute financially to the film.

There is still an exigency for more funding as the costs involved in “clearing musical licenses for a commercial release are astronomical. Without funding, I will not be able to take the film to bigger screens,” Tan shared.

And if he does not get the necessary funds? YouTube will be the film’s “final resting place”. However, Tan is encouraged he will be able to get the necessary support given the “overwhelming response and support received at the private screening.”

The new Zouk opens at Clark Quay this Saturday (December 17). — TODAY